Review Your Rights Under the Federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and State Law
Review your rights under the law. Visit www.FTC.gov or many other websites that discuss fair debt collection practices. Look at both Federal law and the law of your state to see what protections you have against unlawful collection tactics.
Understand That The Call May Be Recorded
Many debt collectors record the telephone calls to you, as they want to use any admissions made by you about the debt as evidence in a subsequent lawsuit to collect the debt.
Make A Log of the Contacts
Get a tablet or notebook where you can make note of every call, the time, day, length, the name of the debt collector, the agency name and what was discussed. Make note in particular of any agreement you may enter or any false, misleading or harassing conduct by the debt collector.
Keep a Copy of All Communications
Keep all the letters you receive from the debt collection agency and copies of any letters you send. Consider recording your calls, if your particular state law permits you to do so, and follow any requirements of the law.
Do Not Assume the Debt is Valid
Until you know the identity of the underlying obligation and the details of the amounts for which the debt collector is calling, you should not assume that the debt is valid, that the amount claimed is correct or that the debt collector has a legal right to recover the claimed amount. Until you have this information and confirm that the debt is yours, has not expired through a statute of limitations and that the debt collector is attempting to collect a legally valid amount, there is no reason to promise to pay the collector, to say that the obligation is yours in fact or to say that you owe any money on the obligation.
You Get Information About the Debt and the Collection Agency
Demand the name of the underlying creditor, the original account number, the details of the amount of the debt the collector is claiming, the name of the collection agency, its address and telephone number and also its account number assigned to this matter. You need this information to verify who the collection agency is and how to contact them.
Demand Verification of the Debt Before Discussing It Further
Tell the debt collector that you want verifiction of the debt before you will have any discussion about it. The Federal law requires the debt collector to send to you in writing a letter telling you the amount of the debt, the name of the creditor to whom the money is owed and what action to take if you dispute the debt. If you do not receive this letter, the debt collector may be in violation of the law.
Within 30 Days Submit a Good Faith Dispute and Request Verification of the Debt
When you get the initial written communication from the debt collector discussed in Step 7, respond within 30 days, in writing, demanding verification of the debt and dispute the debt unless you know that you owe this obligation, that the amount is correct and that the debt is still legally valid. The letter from the collection agency should tell you the name and address of the original creditor and that you have the right to dispute the debt in writing within 30 days. Keep copies of your letter and send it by certified return receipt mail so the collection agency cannot deny getting it. All collection efforts by the agency must stop once it gets a dispute or verification letter from you, if within 30 days of its iniital letter.
Until the Collection Agency Verifies the Debt, It May Not Make Further Collection Attempts
Once the collection agency receives your dispute or demand for verification of the debt, it must cease all collection efforts on any disputed portion of the debt until it verifies the debt or gets a copy of a related judgment and then mails the name and address of the original creditor and a copy of the verification or judgment to you.
Review the Collection Agency's Verification of the Debt
Once the collection agency sends you verification of the debt, review the debt carefully to determine how you want to handle it. If you dispute the debt, inform the collection agency of the full nature of your dispute. You can try to pursuade the collection agency to stop its collection efforts, but many are not easily dissuaded. They are used to people denying any obligation and most are trained to get money from you no matter what you say about the debt. You can also contact the original creditor to get more information or even clear up any inaccuracies, but don't expect much cooperation there either since they have turned the matter over to a collection agency.
Consider How You Will Handle the Debt
You will have to decide how you will handle the debt and the collection attempts. Your options are many, and include but are not limited to ignoring it, refusing to pay, disputing it, paying it, negotiating a settlement or even suing on the debt yourself to determine your obligations or waiting to see what the collection agency does with the debt. You should make this decision after becoming well informed of the claimed debt, your legal rights and what you are able to do under the circumstances. I recommend that you seek competent legal advice on how to handle the debt, even if you just intend to pay it as you may be able to affect how the debt is reported on your credit reports.
You Can Demand that the Debt Collector Cease All Communciations
If you notify the debt collector in writing that you refuse to pay the debt or that you want the collection agency to stop contacting you about the debt, it must cease all communicaitons with you except to notify you that it is terminating its collection efforts, to notify you that it may invoke specified remedies which it oridinarilly takes, or where applicable, to notify you that it intends to invoke a specified remedy like filing a lawsuit. You must mail this demand. Keep a copy. Send it by certified return receipt if possible, though that is not a legal requirement.
Additional resources provided by the author
FTC Consumer Guides and Publications on Debt Collection
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